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Bilingual Processing Costs in HF non-cognates

Nadine Charanek, Vegas Hodgins and Olessia Jouravlev have investigated how prevalent are bilingual costs during native (L1) speech production at the International Conference on the Mental Lexicon 2022 and previously at the Words in the World Conference 2021.

Knowledge of multiple languages has some clear benefits for one’s personal and professional

lives. However, managing multiple languages in one mind is associated with some costs in the

language domain. Indeed, infants growing in bilingual environments are often delayed in

language acquisition (Genesee et al., 2004). Adult bilinguals make more speech errors, have

smaller vocabularies, and are slower in naming pictures and reading words than monolinguals

(e.g., Gollan et al., 2005; Gollan et al., 2007). Further, there are some claims that bilinguals

experience communicative challenges not only in their second language, but also in their native

language (e.g., Sadat et al., 2016).

In this project, we asked two questions about the prevalence of bilingual costs during native speech


  1. Are bilingual costs present equally for all items? and

  2. Are bilingual costs present equally in bilinguals of diverse linguistic backgrounds?

To answer these questions, we examined the picture naming performance of 65 English

monolinguals and 72 English-French bilinguals. The participants named images of objects in

English. The objects to be named were selected by crossing two factors. The first factor was a

cognate status of a corresponding word (cognate (ball/balle) vs. non-cognate(cake/gateau)). The

second factor was the lexical frequency of a corresponding word (high frequency (ball/balle) vs. low

frequency (cactus/cactus).

The results revealed a Group by Cognate status interaction: Bilinguals were slower to name

objects compared to monolinguals if corresponding words were non-cognates. For cognate

words, no group differences were observed. Further, there was a significant Group by lexical

Frequency by Cognate Status interaction. Bilingual naming costs were higher for high-frequency

than for low-frequency words, but this effect was restricted to non-cognates. Finally, in the

exploratory examination of individual differences in bilingual naming costs, we observed that

balanced bilinguals were more likely to show evidence for slower L1 naming latencies than

bilinguals with more dominant L1.

These results are consistent with the view that bilingual costs arise due to competition between

activated lexical items. First of all, bilingual costs do not arise for cognates because the same

lexical item is activated across two languages. Secondly, these costs are higher for high

frequency words because the corresponding words from two languages are more likely to get

activated at approximately the same time and compete for selection. Finally, balanced bilinguals

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